Heart Disease Prevention

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year.

Heart disease is a broad term covering any disorder of the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), where the major blood vessels or arteries that supply your heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients become damaged or diseased. Coronary artery disease is also known as coronary heart disease (CHD).

Every year, 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. Fortunately, heart disease is largely preventable—in fact, it is one of the nation's most preventable health problems. A healthy lifestyle can help you avoid heart disease and live longer. Finding and treating problems early may also help you avoid more serious problems later. Here are some ways to prevent heart disease and maintain cardiac health.

Coronary heart disease is no longer the disease of the elderly, said Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, director of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and non-invasive cardiac services at Firelands Regional Medical Center. “With the explosion of obesity, diabetes, and the dependence on processed food, sweetened beverages and the lack of exercise in the current generation, the average age of patients presenting with coronary heart disease has gotten much younger than what it was only a couple of decades ago. Fortunately, with an aggressive approach for lifestyle modification, we can reverse this trend and reduce the incidence and prevalence of heart disease in our community.”

How to Prevent Heart Disease

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), your chances of having heart disease skyrocket when your diet is low in nuts, seeds, omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. The major risk factors for heart attacks (a consequence of improperly managed heart disease) are smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. This risk becomes even higher when your diet is high in saturated fats, sodium, sweetened beverages, and processed meats.

Here are some ways you can prevent heart disease.

1. Eat a heart-healthy, balanced diet

A healthy diet is essential to help you reduce your risk for heart disease. Over two-thirds of heart disease-related deaths are linked to food choices.

Some foods can predispose you to heart disease. These foods include high amounts of saturated fats, sweetened beverages, processed meats, and foods high in sodium.

Heart-healthy foods which can prevent heart disease include berries, avocado, walnuts, beans, leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale and spinach), small amounts of red wine, salmon (you can bake it in foil with vegetables and herbs), tuna, olive oil (in place of vegetable oils) and almonds.

2. Physical activity and exercise

Physical activity and exercise are important to keep your heart working at optimal efficiency and reduce your risk for heart disease. When you exercise, your heart pumps more blood through your body, and this helps it stay healthy longer. Exercise can also keep your arteries and other blood vessels flexible, thereby ensuring better blood flow and normal blood pressure.

3. Get some good sleep

Sleeping for at least seven to nine hours per day has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of having a heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity (which are all risk factors for heart disease). So, if you sleep well, you can reduce your risk for heart disease.

Ensure that you make your sleeping area or bedroom comfortable enough for sleep. Also, avoid using electronic gadgets (phones, laptops, and televisions) late into the night as they emit rays that can tamper with your biological clock (circadian rhythm) and reduce your quality of sleep.

4. Quit smoking

Tobacco and cigarettes contain an addictive chemical compound called nicotine. Nicotine stimulates the heart to pump blood and causes the blood vessels to constrict. The chemicals contained in cigarette smoke can cause your blood to thicken and form clots inside your arteries and veins. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

If you find that quitting is a challenge, there are resources available. Firelands offers a tobacco cessation program through the Center for Coordinated Care.

5. Limit alcohol intake

It is advised that men have no more than two drinks of alcohol per day, while women should have no more than one drink of alcohol per day. Binge drinking and excessive alcohol intake can increase your risk of getting a heart attack. Therefore, reducing your alcohol intake can reduce your risk of heart disease.

6. Go for routine screenings/tests regularly

Conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc., that can predispose you to heart diseases may show vague symptoms or no symptoms at all early on. However, you can catch these signs early during routine medical screenings. Early detection of any of these conditions can help you manage them early to prevent a debilitating heart condition. Some of the routine screenings for monitoring heart health include:

  • Blood pressure measurement: if you don't have a preexisting condition, your blood pressure should be less than 120mmHg systolic and less than 80mmHg diastolic (<120/80 mmHg).
  • Evaluation of total cholesterol levels: if you are below 19 years of age, your normal cholesterol should be less than 170mg/dL and less than 200mg/dL if you are above 20 years of age.
  • Weight check (Body Mass Index): Obesity is a known risk factor for heart disease. So, you should keep your weight under control with the help of a health professional.

The community outreach department at Firelands offers monthly screenings at a low cost for the community. To schedule a screening, call 419-557-7410.

“Here at Firelands,” said Dr. Ibrahim, “we are very proactive in promoting a healthy lifestyle to our local community and provide a comprehensive approach to manage our patients. We use cutting-edge technology for the treatment of complex coronary heart disease, including complex angioplasty or coronary stenting, and the option of coronary bypass surgery.”

While prevention starts with your everyday choices, you can help reduce your risk for heart disease by controlling key risk factors. To get more information about how you can prevent heart disease, contact us today.